Product Type: Smartcafe gadgets
Newest Review: ... per mug, it comes to about the same price as most novelty mugs these days. However this Smartcafe mug has the added benefit of keeping d... more
The Smart Coffee Cup ?
Smartcafe Hot Cafetiere Mug
Member Name: Nar2
Smartcafe Hot Cafetiere Mug
Date: 31/03/08, updated on 31/03/08 (8506 review reads)
Advantages: Does what it says, great for filter coffee, reasonably cheap, easy to clean
Disadvantages: Practical look may be off putting for some; no air tight top lid.
Five years ago whilst traipsing around Lakeland stores in Glasgow I happened to come across a couple of travel mugs which looked slightly different to anything I had seen for a long time. Being Lakeland who try to look for unique products, the silver and chrome looking travel mugs looked too garish for the likes of me although for an instant I was swayed by the fact that it had a straw hole as well as the normal flap which seals the drink in. At £12-95 however there was no way I'd consider something like that. However sitting next to them was a grey and black thick thermal travel mug with a cafetiere plunger by a company called "Cuisine," and at the price of £8-95 I bought one. So it's a pity that after just two years the mug's plunger decided to give up the ghost after being put through the dishwasher. After the plunger died it seemed like a waste of money to throw away the mug, and amongst my box of Tupperware, that mug is now consigned to the rest of the plastic cups and tumblers I've collected over the years.
These mugs however are called "Smartcafe," mugs and in general thick thermal insulated plastic with a hi/low permanent lifts out filter are classed as cafetiere's in their basic design.
Knowing to be knowingly overpriced, the biggest surprise has been John Lewis stores who are selling what looks like the Cuisine mug again, only this time it falls under the name of "Smartcafe." Two colours are available; the same again dark grey/black cup I had years ago and a nicer, warmer coloured red/black mug. The only slight downside is that at JL, you can only buy a boring office grey mug or as a bright red one, similar to the colours that Thermos adorns their plastic flasks with. Whilst here on Dooyoo there would appear to be a bit more on offer if the photo is anything to go by. And from the website, it seems that the colours of Candy Pink, Cool Blue, Dark Green, Graphite (must be the grey one I had then) Platinum, Red and Yellow variations are all available. Importantly though the range has been designed by Sebastian Conran and despite the colours available it still has a black interior in each version. JL's price is a cheaper and realistic £4-95, which appears to be little more than half the price of mine when purchased all those years ago.
Now if memory serves me correctly there used to be a stack of 10 to 15 plastic brown filter coffee cradles at supermarkets which had a disposable factor to them. Oh yes, many a time I've bought them only to be burnt by the poor plastic which cracks under pressure and a mess when shoved on top of a mug or cup before final removal. Price for those is also on average between £2-95 and £4-95.
As plastic quality goes however the Smartcafe Cafetiere/Travel Mug is purposefully designed with smart, speckled textures on the thick easy to wipe down plastic body and an unusually thin handle which I find surprisingly comfortable. Sometimes I end up holding the mug just by holding onto the main body because of its useful thermal quality. Being a travel mug in its design stage means the plastic is Thermos quality and thick all over whilst the rim at the top has a soft rounded nature for the hungriest of mouths and the roughest of lips. It is not dissimilar to the Cuisine mug and could well be the same product with a new company logo as it has the same ribbed push down plunger with a sealed/tri-bonded mesh filter at the bottom to push coffee powder down to the bottom just like a standard cafetiere system. Thanks to that one sided plunger, a permanent slider wall juts out of the mug internally but it is still quite easy to keep clean despite this. It is however not microwave safe despite the use of all plastic in its construction.
And whilst it may well warn that its not dishwasher safe, I've already put mine in my parents dishwasher without the plunger added - because this is how my original Cuisine mug was damaged. Sadly due to its construction the bonded white mesh filter is similar to the mesh types you find on plastic tea strainers and worlds away from the metal mesh you'll find with standard glass cafetiere jugs. This is perhaps why the product isn't completely dishwasher safe. The mesh filter however can be washed in soapy hot water.
Generally I find that the capacity of liquid the Smartcafe mug can take is similar to a medium porcelain mug - around 200 millilitres (ml) or 7 fluid oz.
Making coffee - for what it is designed for - is very easy even if you have to hold one part of the mug and use your other hand to plunge the coffee grounds down. The mug is only big enough for a single consumer, so the smaller quantity of coffee can be used here against the usual 4 to 5 tea spoons for a glass jug. As such I use decaf or normal cafetiere filter coffee in this mug and find it a handy mug to have particularly when studying or doing paperwork late at night. Certainly it weighs and shortens up the time to produce a whole jug of coffee that I'm not going to consume and therefore is an ideal economy saver. What doesn't work is loose-leaf tea due possibly to the bigger leaf particles against finely ground coffee, which is a pity if you like to mix up your own blends of real tea. The plunger does have a rubber ring around its main central rim but I find its not air tight enough to keep loose tea leaves from filtering into your drink: I suppose if you took time to grind down tea leaves there would be the slight possibility that the Smartcafe could seal the leaves in then. One suggestion which comes direct from the user manual however is to fill the mug with a little hot water first and this is ideal if you want to heat the cup up a little; after all it's the same principle for coffee cups on a standard espresso machine and here the same policy is no different. Unlike the smaller cups however once the drink is filled to the top, the Smartcafe mug is extremely stable.
After the coffee and water has been filled, simply lower the plunger slowly until it hits the bottom; then treat the mug as you would do any other with desired milk and/or sugar. Despite the plunger remaining at the bottom sugar always breaks up on contact so there is never any sediment left at the bottom once the drink has been consumed. Washing up is generally very easy too after the plunger has been pulled out and the coffee grounds disposed of.
One of the biggest drawbacks of this product however isn't its novel design or thermal insulation (which I find lasts between half an hour and an hour depending on how hot the boiling water is) but the fact that it doesn't really suit the "travel mug" connotations that John Lewis have advertised this product at. The only reason is simply because the Smartcafe mug is an open design mug with no additional lid which can be installed at the top. Needless to say if there was an airtight top lid available, this would be an ideal mug to grab in the mornings and take to work with you. However despite this, it does save for those hankering after a real cup of coffee. Thanks for reading. İNar2 2008
Summary: Economical way for the must have filter coffee fanatic.